National Defense Authorization Act includes provision to ensure caregivers are engaged in the military pre-separation process and connected to support services
Washington, D.C.– December 12, 2017 – The Elizabeth Dole Foundation celebrates the passage of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a critical provision in support of military and veteran caregivers. The Foundation recognizes the contributions of Amber Oldfield, Dole Caregiver Fellow from South Dakota as the inspiration for this provision.
The provision requires each secretary of a military department to take appropriate action to determine if members of the armed forces undergoing pre-separation counseling require and have identified a caregiver. The secretary and department will then ensure that the caregiver is permitted to participate in appropriate sessions of the member’s pre-separation counseling and is connected to assistance and support services available through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other sources.
Amber Oldfield is a caregiver for her husband, an Army veteran living with invisible wounds. A vocal advocate for both her husband and fellow military caregivers, Amber shared her experience with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), who wrote this provision with Amber in mind.
“It is vital that caregivers be included in the transition process. When a service member transitions out of the military, he or she is often lost in a new and complicated system, and for a caregiver, helping your veteran navigate this system without having been involved from the beginning is incredibly daunting,” said Amber. “I am so grateful to Senator Rounds, his staff, and the work of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation in getting this provision included in the NDAA. If a caregiver is involved from the beginning, we’re going to see fewer veterans slip through the cracks, and fewer families struggling from the stress.”
The research is clear: veterans have the best chance to recover and thrive when they have a strong, well-supported caregiver. However, far too often the caregiver is excluded from many aspects of their veteran’s care, and left without resources to connect with VA and other military caregivers. The NDAA provision is an important step towards inclusion for our nation’s 5.5 million hidden heroes—spouses, mothers, dads, and friends of wounded, ill, or injured veterans and service members.
“Integrating the caregiver in the first stages of a veteran’s separation from the military will vastly improve outcomes for veterans and for caregivers,” said Senator Elizabeth Dole, Founder of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. “Our Dole Caregiver Fellows, like Amber, are working tirelessly to secure their right to be involved, and we are thrilled to see Congress recognizing this urgent need and taking steps to truly integrate the caregiver.”
About Elizabeth Dole Foundation
The Elizabeth Dole Foundation is the preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s 5.5 million military caregivers – the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill or injured veterans at home. Founded by Senator Elizabeth Dole in 2012, the Foundation adopts a comprehensive approach in its support and advocacy, working with leaders in the public, private, nonprofit, and faith communities to recognize military caregivers’ service and promote their well-being. Learn more about the Elizabeth Dole Foundation at www.elizabethdolefoundation.org.
The Hidden Heroes Campaign, an initiative of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and provides a safe, secure place where caregivers can meet and access carefully vetted resources at HiddenHeroes.org. Another aspect of the Campaign, Hidden Heroes Cities, is an effort to galvanize local leaders across America to identify military caregivers in their communities and the local resources to support them. To date, 110 cities from San Antonio to New York, from Washington, DC to San Diego have signed on. Learn more about Hidden Heroes at www.hiddenheroes.org.